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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Forest density and edge effects on soil microbial communities in deciduous forests across Europe

Yang, Jie; Blondeel, Haben; Meeussen, Camille; Govaert, Sanne; Vangansbeke, Pieter; Boeckx, Pascal; Lenoir, Jonathan; Orczewska, Anna; Ponette, Quentin; Hedwall, Per -Ola; Iacopetti, Giovanni; Brunet, Jorg; De Frenne, Pieter; Verheyen, Kris


Forest fragmentation increases the proportion of edge area and this, in turn, induces changes in forest structure, species composition and microclimate. These factors are also strongly determined by the forest management regime. Although the interactive effects of edges and density on forest plant communities have been extensively studied, little is known about the response of the belowground communities. Here we investigated the variation of soil microbiota in 45 deciduous broadleaved forests along a latitudinal gradient from Italy to Norway at a continental scale across Europe. Phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) and neutral lipid fatty acid (NLFA) were used to map the microbial community in the forest edge and interior across three forest densities (dense, intermediate, open forest). Microbial community composition was only affected by forest edge effects and not by forest density. We did not find any interaction effects between forest density and distance-to-edge. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) were significantly more abundant in edges and Gram-negative bacteria more abundant in interiors, respectively. The microbial community composition was closely related to soil pH, soil potassium and nitrogen, texture (percent sand) and soil temperature. Soil pH was positively correlated with the saprotrophic fungi and potassium was positively correlated with Gram-negative bacteria but negatively correlated with Actinobacteria. In sum, we reveal the notable effects of forest edges on the soil AMF abundance. This result indicated that AMF could possess a stronger affinity with species growing in the edges, which may help to improve plant perfor-mance under hostile conditions herein.


Microbial community; Edge effect; Forest density; PLFA; Deciduous forests

Published in

Applied Soil Ecology
2022, Volume: 179, article number: 104586
Publisher: ELSEVIER